In answering the question, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology and author of The Intelligence of Dogs, recounts the story of a bulldog named Dan who had a keen musical ear. Dan attended the choir practices at Hereford Cathedral in London. Any time a chorister sang out of tune, Dan would growl. “Good boy — weed out those bad singers.”
A study by Deborah Wells, a psychologist at Queens University (Belfast, Northern Ireland), exposed dogs at an animal shelter to different kinds of music and closely observed their behavior. Wells played popular music (eg, Bob Marley, Britney Spears, Robbie Williams), classical music (eg, Vivaldi, Beethoven) and heavy-metal rock (eg, Metallica). The study confirmed that not only did Wells have bad taste in music (really, Britney Spears?), dogs respond to music much like their human companions. Dogs became very agitated and began barking when listening to heavy-metal music (can you blame them?). Classic music, on the other hand, had a very soothing and calming effect on the dogs — it dramatically reduced barking and encouraged them to lay and settle down. Popular music, like human conversation, had no real effect on the pooches. Wells concluded: “It is well established that music can influence our moods… It is now believed that dogs may be discerning as humans when it comes to musical preference.”
Soon after the study, many of the dogs went on to purchase iPods (using a combination of Bitcoin and biscuits) and create their own iTune accounts to download classical music. Several of the dogs were reprimanded for scratching and urinating on Britney Spears and Metallic CDs. So far, Wells has not replaced those.
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